The EU Commission will soon reveal the outcome of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) implementation report, a long-awaited document that will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the legislation and which could become the first step in the reformulation of the European approach towards tobacco-alternative products.
Since 2019 the EU Commission has carried out different assessments with industry members, commissioned research to in-house scientists and third parties, and put in place a validation workshop to check the consistency and accuracy of all the findings.
The result of this preliminary work is expected to be used by officials as important sources in the document, which will be forwarded to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions.
The Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) will take into consideration a product perception study, research assessing how specific product categories – such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco – are perceived by the public.
The study concluded that the TPD did not have any significant impact in the harm perception of e-cigarettes and the majority of respondents perceived vaping to be equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes.
The report will also mention the recent final opinion on e-cigarettes from the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) confirming its sceptical attitude to the role of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation.
And the results of the special Eurobarometer survey from earlier this year are also expected to be used by officials.
The survey showed that daily e-cigarette users’ usage decreased by approximately 12 percentage points in comparison with the previous survey in 2017. Nearly half of e-cigarette users (48%) said they use nicotine-containing e-cigarettes every day, while only 10% use nicotine-free e-cigarettes daily.
The EU Commission will also consider the results of a fieldwork research among member states on the achievements and obstacles of the TPD implementation since 2014.
According to the conclusions seen by ECigIntelligence, the study found that the implementation and transposition of the TPD have been “overall a success” in all countries.
Despite the general good functioning of the legislation, non-compliance of products and the lack of expertise and technical knowledge for monitoring and enforcing the Directive were noted as the main challenges.
Some countries also warned about the “legislative gap” around some tobacco-alternative products such as heated tobacco or other products that do not contain tobacco or nicotine.
ECigIntelligence learnt that some EU capitals pointed out that the definition of smokeless tobacco in the Directive proved challenging for the classification of novel tobacco products.
“The definition of an electronic cigarette has not been clear to the manufacturers, importers and retailers. The expression ‘the device without cartridge or tank’ has been a subject to discussion several times. The submitters, think that the rules are unclear and can be interpreted,” replied Denmark to a questionnaire circulated to the member states.
Health officials in Belgium acknowledged that the TPD was negotiated in 2013 and that the e-cigarette market has been “evolving rapidly” since then.
“In this framework, there are several reflections ongoing in Belgium on the need to adapt our current legislation to the evolution of the market and to the new scientific knowledge that has been developed on the issue in recent years,” they said.
Germany is looking forward to the outcome of the implementation report. “In our view, the feedback that has been given by the countries can only be the first step in this necessary political debate.”
“The evaluation by the European Commission is a process of discovery. The result is open and should not be anticipated. The Federal Government will have a vote on a possible future revision of the directive in due time, taking into account the results of the aforementioned evaluation and further information available at that time,” a spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture told ECigIntelligence.
What This Means: Although member states believe that the TPD has improved the functioning of the internal market in recent years, there are a few issues of concern.
The big question mark is whether the Commission will compromise and come up with a proposal in the coming months to revise the current version of the Directive and adapt the EU legislation to the rapidly evolving tobacco-alternatives market.
If this happens, insiders believe that discussions in the Parliament and the Council could start as soon as in 2022, and the terms of the new TPD could be agreed before the 2024 European elections.
– David Palacios ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Aron Visuals